All About the Middle East
A large region of the world that is not a continent is the Middle East, an area a part of three continents-Asia, Africa, and Europe. It is a natural land bridge consisting of 22 countries and has been of great importance in history since ancient times. It is often called the 'cradle of civilization'. In modern times, large amounts of oil deposits have made the region important for other countries throughout the world.
The area is the birthplace of three major religions-Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The dominant faith of the region is Islam and is practiced by Muslims throughout the area under two main branches: Sunni Islam and Shi'i Islam. Christianity is practiced by some Arabs, but Judaism is the religion of Israel. The region is sometimes referred to as the Arab World as well and is a part of Western Asia
The region extends from the eastern coast of the Mediterranean of Turkey and Syria, through the desert to Iraq and Arabia, and to the east through Iran to three seas-the Caspian, Caucasus, and Black. Other bodies bordering the region include the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf, and Arabian Sea. The area is mostly mountainous, desert, sea coasts, and fertile plains that are irrigated by rivers, and the climate ranges from temperate to the extreme heat of the arid deserts, though cold in the snowy mountains.
The Middle East covers about 3.4 million square miles with a population of nearly 300 million people (2016). The Nile River, longest in the world, flows through Egypt and south through other countries in Africa, and other rivers include the Tigris and Euphrates. The Dead Sea, the lowest elevation on Earth, can be found in the region along with Lake Urmia, Lake Van, and the Suez Canal.
The Arab World is generally considered to include the following 22 countries, in alphabetical order-Algeria, Bahrain, the Comoros Islands, Djibouti, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
The largest country is Saudi Arabia with Bahrain as the smallest and least populated with about 2 million people, which is an island in the Persian Gulf. Iran has the largest population with about 82 million people. Major cities in the Middle East include Istanbul in Turkey with about 15 million people; Cairo in Egypt; Baghdad, Iraq; Ankara, Turkey, its capital; and Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.
Many people throughout the world visit the region, to see and experience the religious aspects of the area or to climb the second highest mountain on Earth, K2, found in Pakistan with an elevation of 28,251 feet, a part of the Karakoram mountain range. Petra is an archaeological site in the southwestern desert of Jordan and dates to 300 BC and contains tombs and temples carved into cliffs.
Finally, Mount Sinai can be found in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt and possible location of the mountain with the same name in the Bible, and it is considered a very holy and religious site. And still used today as a place of prayer is the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, a historic place of prayer constructed in the early 1600s.
The Middle East is often a misunderstood region of the world and is sometimes the center of conflicts and wars between its people and others, but millions of people call it their home where they live, work, and play in peace.
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